Early computers and an iPhone by the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak). Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Cosmetics queen Estee Lauder. These are just some of the people whose work will be displayed in an exhibit on American innovations and inventions opening on July 1 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The various exhibits opening in the building’s renovated west exhibition wing display the business history of the U.S, and how the country went from an agrarian society to a world-leading economic power.
The newly renovated $63 million innovation wing is the first piece completed in a six-year overhaul of the wing that began in 2012. The first floor of the wing is opening next week uses the theme of innovation to propel visitors along the modernized, state-of-the-art exhibits. The sections are entitled:
- American Enterprise, which is about the country’s growth and capitalism;
- Places of Invention, which looks at innovative areas like the Silicon Valley;
- Inventive Minds, which features video interviews;
- Fantastic Worlds, which shows various hoaxes and science fiction works;
- And more.
The layout of the Smithsonian exhibit on American innovations and inventions that is opening July 1 differs from past exhibits that separated things presented by topic, such as science or technology. The new emphasis on people, places and innovations allows manufacturing, technology, agriculture and other economic sectors to be presented cohesively and chronologically.
There is a detailed look at the early merchant days until the early 1800s, and then the industrial revolution and rise of corporations. The consumer and production boom that accompanied and grew with the Baby Boomers follows this. Then comes the global era and computer age. Each section has information on entrepreneurs that helped shape that period, such as J.P. Morgan and Ruth Handler (creator of Barbie dolls).
The Places of Invention section take a detailed look at six communities where the right mix of talent, creativity, resources and inspiration to radically change how things were done and lead innovations that were transformational culturally and economically. Chronologically, they are:
- Hartford, Conn., – The factory town introduced precision manufacturing in the late 1800s.
- Hollywood, Calif. – The introduction of Technicolor in the 1930s led to the Golden Age of cinema and growth of the industry.
- Medical Alley, Minn. – This area within Minnesota now houses approximately 500 medical-related companies and health care organizations incubated a revolution in cardiac care in the 1950s.
- Bronx, N.Y. – Besides the Yankees, one other thing Bronx is known for is the birth of hip-hop in the 1970s.
- Silicon Valley, Calif. – The personal computer and technology transformation on the Internet grew from garages in the suburbs into some of the largest companies in the world.
- Fort Collins, Colo. – The area is currently growing into one of the world’s largest zero energy districts helping build a greener future.
The July 1 opening of the exhibit on innovations and inventions is the first area to be completed in the renovated wing Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. A new Smithsonian section on democracy and the people of the U.S. is planned to debut in 2017 and one on culture in the country in supposed to be completed in 2018.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
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